There has never been a better time to live, visit and invest in the Toowoomba Region. This year Council worked hard to drive further economic growth and deliver an unparalleled lifestyle.
Through careful financial management we achieved outstanding results for ratepayers and the broader community delivering on key budget commitments and priorities.
This 2017-18 Annual Report provides a comprehensive summary of our financial results and a snapshot of our achievements. It also reflects the hard work of our Councillors, Council staff and residents.
We live in the best region in the world. This year, together, we achieved a great deal.
With a Gross Regional Product (GRP) of $10.5 billion, the Toowoomba Region is one of the most diverse and robust economies in Australia.
Our population trends tell a story of steady and manageable growth, with 50,000 new residents expected to call our region home by 2031.
Our region continues to show strong economic growth. It is buoyed by significant public and private investment in various projects. We welcome the Toowoomba Second Range Crossing, Toowoomba Wellcamp Airport, Pulse Data Centre and the Inland Rail Project as a part of the mosaic of exciting activity.
Our role as a regional capital city, agricultural hub, knowledge and research centre and a freight and logistics hub provides enormous strengths and competitive advantages. This year, we sought to strategically position ourselves for the next wave of economic growth with the launch of Bold Ambitions 2038. Developed in partnership with Toowoomba and Surat Basin Enterprise (TSBE), the Queensland Government, Chambers of Commerce and all levels of economic advocacy, Bold Ambitions 2038 is a blueprint for enhancing the vibrancy, liveability and economic sustainability of the Toowoomba Region.
At Council we recognise that community members who engage with us, business owners, Chambers of Commerce, Progress Associations and not-for-profit groups are best qualified to identify opportunities and solutions for their communities.
This year through our various grant programs we helped community groups deliver programs that enhance our community and attract or boost employment in our towns and districts. A full list of these grants can be found in this Report under the categories of economic development, community support, culture and art, environment, events as well as sport and recreation.
During the year we performed the most wide-reaching engagement activity undertaken by Toowoomba Regional Council with a Community Survey. The survey was scientifically designed to help us understand how our services are meeting the needs of the Region. We achieved an overall satisfaction score of 6.6/10. This is good recognition of the services provided by this Council and gives us a clear mandate on areas that require attention. I am committed to using these results to help guide our priorities in coming years.
Over the past seven years, Council has invested $80 million into enhancing the Toowoomba Central Business District (CBD) through our City Centre Masterplan. This year, work commenced to transform the 120-year-old heritage-listed Toowoomba Railway Goods Shed into a first-class flexible space to attract commercial and cultural interests. A concept Master Plan was also approved for the upgrade of Cathro Park and Council’s vision of facilitating a vibrant laneway culture progressed, with the acquisition of 174 Margaret Street.
Ensuring cultural facilities meet the needs of the community remained a key priority for Council this year, with the official opening of the Toowoomba City Hall Auditorium and Annex, following a $7.8 million refurbishment. The magnificent restoration and extension work has revived an important heritage listed civic building from the early 20th Century and made it a highly adaptable asset for current and future use.
Highfields is a thriving and growing urban hub with population projections suggesting that an additional 7,000 people will call Highfields home by 2031.
This year, Council worked in partnership with the Highfields community to develop the Central Highfields Master Plan, with feedback received throughout three stages of community engagement.
The 45-hectare Master Plan for Central Highfields will provide a blueprint to ensure future developments – community, commercial and residential – aligned with community expectations. Once complete, it will set a foundation for Central Highfields to become a vibrant place that reflects community aspirations and values.
Our libraries once again proved popular destinations for residents and visitors. They have benefited from an investment in upgrades, with opening hours adjusted in Goombungee, Crows Nest, Oakey and Pittsworth to enhance service offerings for local residents. Council libraries hosted 1,409 programs and events including TooCon, First 5 Forever, holiday activities, author events and writing and computer literacy programs.
Tourism continued to contribute to the region’s economy this year. It enhances the cultural and social fabric of our community with people flocking to our region from across the world.
The Toowoomba Wellcamp Airport contributed to visitation numbers across the region and Council continued to work with industry partners to offer iconic experiences, deliver quality services and build a strong understanding of the value of the tourism industry.
This year Council worked towards our bold vision to grow our tourism market by $41.8 million by 2020.
A record 255,639 people attended the award winning Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers (TCOF) in 2017, with overall figures up 29% on the previous year. According to Tourism and Events Queensland figures, the 10-day celebration now generates $24 million in visitor spend for the Region.
Council also continued to promote sports tourism across the region, through our support of the:
- Australian Inter-schools Equestrian Championships
- Gold Coast Titans vs St George Illawarra Dragons National Rugby League game
- Mountain Man Motorcross
- National Indoor Cricket Championships
- Pony Club Australia National Championships
- Queensland PGA Golf Championships
- Queensland Ten Pin Bowling Championships
- Toowoomba Tennis International.
Exchanges, friendships, memories and stories continued to be shared through our Sister City relationships with Takatsuki (Japan), Whanganui (New Zealand) and Paju (South Korea). Council also investigated unlocking opportunities from a growing Asian market through partnerships in the Yuecheng District in China.
Volunteers are the backbone of our region and their ongoing commitment enhances social cohesion and a sense of purpose within our community. Across our region there are over 600 volunteers who support and enhance services at our visitor information centres, museums, art galleries, parks and libraries.
I was delighted to thank 300 volunteers during a morning tea in May 2018 to coincide with National Volunteers’ Week. In November 130 volunteers were recognised at the inaugural Years of Service morning tea at the Armitage Centre.
I was honoured to represent Council at numerous openings and events. Thank you to those of you who work behind the scenes to continue to make our region great. Attending sporting events, art exhibitions, country shows, Australian Day events and Anzac Day commemorations highlight to me the wonderful diversity within our community and the tireless work of individuals and committees who make our region so much richer.
A socially cohesive society is one which works towards the wellbeing of all its members, fights exclusion and marginalisation, creates a sense of belonging, promotes trust and offers its members the opportunity of upward mobility. At Council we believe it is our responsibility to help build resilient and productive communities through continued support of multicultural, disability, youth and senior services, including the Council Cab service, YouthConnect and the Linking Leaders project.
With crisp, clean country air and easy access to parks and wildlife, we have many opportunities to get back to nature and enjoy a wonderful standard of living. I am proud of the role Council played in contributing to our liveability, through the provision of clean and safe drinking water, efficient waste disposal and well-planned and maintained infrastructure. Our libraries, free parks barbecues and kilometres of bikeways promote healthy lifestyles, increase accessibility and enhance community connections.
Thank you to our 1,765 dedicated staff for all your hard work in delivering these vital services to residents throughout our region.
My job would be very difficult without the continued support of my fellow Councillors and a capable and dedicated executive management team, including the CEO. Thank you for your passion, commitment and expertise.
As we head into the new financial year I look forward to continuing to deliver community outcomes that respect our Rich Traditions and achieve our Bold Ambitions.
Mayor, Toowoomba Regional Council